Status Report

Orbital Set to Launch Pegasus Rocket Tomorrow

By SpaceRef Editor
October 6, 2000
Filed under

Orbital Sciences Corporation
announced today that it is preparing to launch the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) High Energy Transient Explorer
(HETE-2) satellite aboard a standard Pegasus® rocket on Saturday, October 7,
2000. Pegasus is the world’s leading launch system for the deployment of small
satellites into low-Earth orbit. Its patented air-launch system, in which the
rocket is launched from beneath an L-1011 carrier aircraft over the ocean,
reduces cost and provides customers with unparalleled flexibility to operate
from virtually anywhere on Earth with minimal ground support requirements.

The launch of the HETE-2 spacecraft will represent several important
milestones for the Pegasus launch vehicle program.

* First, the HETE-2 mission will be the 30th launch in the rocket
program’s history, a depth of commercial operational experience no
other small launch vehicle in the world can match.

* Second, the HETE-2 mission will represent the first launch of a
commercial rocket from Kwajalein Missile Range (KMR), a U.S. Army
installation in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, about 4,000
kilometers southwest of Hawaii. KMR’s central Pacific Ocean location
provides an optimum geographic site for a mission that requires an
equatorial orbit.

* Third, the HETE-2 launch from KMR will be the first time that a small-
class commercial space launch vehicle will have carried out an
equatorial mission. In fact, among all the world’s small launch
vehicles, only Pegasus is readily available to conduct equatorial
missions because of its ability to be ferried to the appropriate range

* Fourth, with the addition of KMR, Pegasus will be the only commercial
space launch vehicle launched from six separate sites worldwide.
Previous Pegasus missions have been conducted from four ranges in the
U.S., including Edwards Air Force Base, CA; Vandenberg Air Force Base,
CA; Cape Canaveral Air Station, FL; and NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility,
VA. Orbital also launched a Pegasus rocket from Gran Canaria in the
Spanish Canary Islands.

The logistics of the HETE-2 mission highlight the unparalleled mobility of
the Pegasus air-launch system.
The Pegasus rocket was integrated and tested
at the company’s facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
It was
then ferried over 6,000 kilometers across the Pacific aboard Orbital’s L-1011
carrier aircraft to KMR on September 29 and 30.
Although the launch will be
conducted from KMR, the mission’s control center will be located at Kennedy
Space Center in Florida, halfway around the Earth, where it is more accessible
to NASA and Orbital HETE-2 team members.

On launch day, the available window for the HETE-2 mission extends from
1:35 a.m. to 10:35 a.m. EDT, with a targeted launch time of 1:45 a.m.
schedule is subject to the completion of final pre-launch activities, as well
as acceptable weather conditions at KMR.
The powered flight sequence for the
mission is expected to take approximately 11 minutes, from the time the
Pegasus rocket is released from its L-1011 carrier aircraft to the time that
the satellite is deployed in orbit.
Orbital plans to launch the HETE-2
satellite into a 600 x 650-kilometer orbit inclined 2 degrees to the Earth’s
Following the launch, Orbital expects that it could take several
hours before reliable data, gathered by ground tracking stations as the
satellite passes overhead, can be assembled and reported on the basic status
and health of the spacecraft.

The 275-pound HETE-2 satellite was built by a team of engineers from the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology as part of an international
collaboration sponsored by NASA that involved the U.S., France and Japan.
small satellite carries three scientific instruments that will examine deep
space for powerful explosions known as gamma ray bursts (GRBs).
The study of
the mysterious GRBs could help scientists discover the structure and formation
of the early universe.

Orbital is one of the largest space technology and satellite services
companies in the world, with 1999 total enterprise revenues (including
revenues from unconsolidated affiliates) of approximately $915 million.
company, headquartered in Dulles, VA, employs about 5,000 people at major
facilities in the U.S., Canada and several overseas locations.

Orbital is the world’s leading manufacturer of low-cost space systems,
including satellites and space robotics, launch vehicles, electronics and
sensors, satellite ground systems and related digital infrastructure.
Magellan subsidiary is a pioneer in satellite-based navigation and
communications products for consumer and industrial markets.
Through its
ORBCOMM and ORBIMAGE affiliates and ORBNAV subsidiary, Orbital is also a major
operator of satellite-based networks that provide data communications, high-
resolution imagery and automotive information services to customers around the

SpaceRef staff editor.